Promoting Active Learning in Your Classroom

shutterstock_256327126_SEPTOver the last 25 years, college instructors have increasingly turned to student-based teaching. The goal of this pedagogical trend is to encourage students to actively participate in learning, which often means limiting professor lecture time and instead using instructional strategies that require students to do more than simply listen.

However, many students resist active learning approaches, while instructors—especially adjuncts and non-tenure-track teachers—may be concerned about negative evaluations if they demand too much of their students. David Gooblar, a columnist at Chronicle Vitae, offers these tips to minimize student blowback to active learning techniques.

Tell students up front what you expect. Explain to students at the beginning of the course why you will be using the active learning techniques, spelling out the benefits of this learning model. If you treat students like they are part of the equation to their own success, they will be more likely to buy in to the approach.

Justify active learning regularly. Inform students why you have devised a particular exercise or topic throughout the semester. Link their learning during each activity toward their final grade or (better yet!) to how the knowledge will benefit them in their future careers. Use rubrics to illustrate how you will assess their work and let them regularly know how they are doing.

Shake up your teaching. Consider that all students may not respond to a particular strategy. For example, some students might resent having to present findings from group work in front of the entire class, especially if this active-learning exercise is used repeatedly.  Devise a variety of activities that can reach each student at least some of the time.

Lecture—occasionally. Sometimes students will benefit by hearing what you know about a topic. After all, that’s why you’re the teacher! But instead of just lecturing, tie the lecture to learner-centered activities later in the session. Tie things up for students at the end of class to remind them about what they have learned and how it links to the overall course goals.

By integrating short writing activities, group work, peer editing, and even quizzing, you’ll be helping your students take away more from their educations. As Sophocles said: “One must learn by doing the thing; for though you think you know it, you will have no certainty until you try.”


How do you promote active learning in your classroom? Start a conversation!

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